Time logging can be a powerful and motivating way to show us where we're wasting precious time and not realizing it. Since I began logging my time earlier this year, I've also been tweaking how I spend it, trying to maximize my most productive time while continuing to knock out necessary administrative tasks during my less-productive hours.

After reading Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done by Laura Vanderkam, I realized some of my habits help set me up for a strong day. I look forward to writing in my journal as part of my morning routine and setting up my next day using my planner.

Still, I learned a few more great hacks that anyone can put to use immediately to help them be more productive. Here are the nine timesaving hacks I learned from Vanderkam's Off the Clock: Feel Less Busy While Getting More Done.

Plan your work around your most productive hours

Figure out your chronotype and protect your most productive hours. Your sleep chronotype is when your body most likely wants to sleep. Knowing that detail will help you determine when you're most productive. While I'm not an early bird, I do prefer going to bed early so I wake up more refreshed after a good night's rest. As a result, my most productive hours are shortly after I wake up. By mid afternoon, I start to wane. Knowing your chronotype helps you protect those crucial hours.

Next, schedule your most challenging tasks during your most productive time. Doing so, says Vanderkam, can knock out an hour of unnecessary worktime. 

Make sure to schedule (and take) breaks throughout the day. Those breaks can help you refresh and better focus in the afternoon. It also means you won't get stuck working late because your mental bandwidth is fried. If you work in an office, try to complete necessary tasks early in the day so you can take more breaks in the afternoon tackling the less-urgent tasks.

Log your time 

Log your time. Try it for a day or a week. Time logs will show you exactly how you're spending your time and where you can make changes to free up your time. This is how I learned where I was wasting at least an hour every day.

Once you've created your time log, consider rearranging your time and minimize or streamline activities you don't love to do. For me, it's emailing to schedule things like interviews. Instead of doing them in the morning, when my brain is fresh, I now send these emails in the afternoon and at one time block. Writing and sending them doesn't require a lot of mental bandwidth and doing them all at once saves me time because I don't have to start and stop and start up again. 

If something has to happen, it has to happen first. Get it done first thing when you start working so that not only can you use your more productive hours (which will take you less time since your brain is fresh) but you'll feel more accomplished at the end of the day.

Take stock of how you use your time

Anytime you consider doing something that takes time, Vanderkam recommends asking yourself "What is my purpose here? Why am I doing this?" If it'll meet some purpose, schedule it. If not, abandon it. This is something I've begun practicing more of since I've been using a Bullet Journal to great success.

When you're curious, you stay focused. Take on projects that keep you curious. It'll take less time to do them when you don't have to muster your energy to get excited about doing the task at hand.

Good enough is good enough. Rather than wasting more time trying to improve something that may not even matter, accept that good enough will work and move on.

Finally, here are two more things to keep in mind, although they're not really time hacks (they do, however, say a lot about how we spend our time and what we value): Do memorable things with people you like, and people are never a waste of time.

Investing in our happiness is often an afterthought when it shouldn't be. Perhaps with some of these time hacks, we can carve out more time for things we want to do rather than feeling stressed because we don't have the time to do them.

Published on: Feb 12, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.